Noise, light, and temperature—these are three aspects in your external environment that affect the way you sleep. But did you know that food affects sleep too? Yep, it’s true. And it turns out there are definitely certain foods to avoid before bed if you want to get a sound night’s sleep. Here, learn about how food affects the way you sleep and find out what not to eat before bed.
How food affects sleep
No matter how tired you are, ultimately your body decides when and how well your sleep. An area that has particular sway is your stomach. Specifically, we’re talking about the foods that enter your body under the guise of good taste but show their true colors when you try to get to sleep.
Research even suggests that a bad night’s sleep can lead you to crave more unhealthy snack and junk food the next day. So, given the fact your nighttime food choices can have lasting health ramifications, here’s our flagged list of foods to avoid before bed.
10 foods to avoid before bedtime
Before you reach for a candy bar before bed, know this: Chocolate is packed with sugar, which can have a serious impact on how well you sleep. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that participants who ate more sugar and saturated fats experienced less deep sleep and woke up more throughout the night. (Read more about how sugar affects sleep.) Chocolate also contains some caffeine, which can stimulate the nervous system and keep you awake for hours.
2. Bacon hamburger
Sometimes you’re just going to crave a juicy bacon hamburger, but this is definitely a food you want to avoid eating before bed. The offending sleep ingredient in this meal is the high-fat content which triggers the production of acid in the stomach and leads to sleep-inhibiting acid reflux—a no-no before bed. Doctors recommend avoiding heartburn-triggering foods including anything fried or fatty too close to bedtime to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
Chicken or any type of protein on its own takes a lot of energy to digest, and lengthening this process could throw your sleep schedule out of whack. Protein contains an amino acid known as tyrosine, which promotes brain activity. A pairing of protein and carbs, however, is one of the best things to eat before bed. Having a snack that includes one serving of protein and one serving of carbs (such as an apple with almond butter) will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night.
Ah, one of the most classic late-night meals, pizza, is actually not the best option to eat before bed—no matter how tasty it is. Cheese is rich in fat and tomato sauce is acidic, making this popular late night dish exactly the wrong thing to eat before bed. To avoid nighttime heartburn that could prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, doctors suggest making lunchtime your biggest meal of the day and quitting eating three hours before bed.
5. Ice cream
It’s always nice to enjoy dessert after dinner, but ice cream isn’t the best option for sleep. Dairy can have a ton of fat and even low-fat ice creams can be high in sugar—which means you probably will not be getting a ton of sleep if you eat ice cream late in the evening.
6. Cereal and milk
This doesn’t just have to do with the dairy in the milk but also the sugar in the cereal, which spikes your blood sugar and puts your body’s fat “storage” to work through the night. Sugar doesn’t just lead to poor sleep, though. Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that when sleep deprived, you tend to eat more junk food.
This might seem like an outlier on our list of what not to eat before bed, but celery is a natural diuretic. That means it quickly pushes water through your system—ultimately leading you into the bathroom instead of your bed. Here’s how to stay hydrated without waking up to pee in the middle of the night.
A big bowl of pasta is total comfort food until you try to fall asleep that is. Pasta is straight carbohydrates which, like sugar, activates that fat “storage” system in your body and then lets it run through the night. A better option would be whole-wheat pasta, which is made from complex carbs that are higher in fiber and won’t spike your blood sugar.
9. Hot pepper
Thinking of placing an order for chicken tikka masala at 10 p.m.? Think again. Spices like cayenne can get your blood flowing and increase your body temperature which is the opposite of where it needs to go for a good sleep. Some people even report that eating spicy foods before bed gives them crazy dreams.
10. Coffee and alcohol
While not solid foods, these two villains are in a league of their own when it comes to sleep. Coffee will keep you wide-eyed thanks to its caffeine content (which will stay in your system long after you drink it) and alcohol will prevent you from reaching a restorative deep sleep, so it’s best just stay away from these two altogether. Alcohol can also make existing sleep conditions, like sleep apnea, worse.
Now you know all about the foods to avoid before sleep, but what about the best foods to eat before food? Take a look at our list of good foods to eat before bed.